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Centre defends sedition law, says no need for Supreme Court to relook past judgment

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In a written submission, the Centre told the Supreme Court that the verdict t in the Kedarnath Singh vs State of Bihar which upheld the law was binding. 

Defending the sedition law, the Centre today asked the Supreme Court to dismiss the pleas challenging the constitutional validity of the colonial-era law. In a written submission, the Centre told the three-judge bench, led by Chief Justice N V Ramana, that the verdict in the Kedar Nath Singh vs State of Bihar which upheld the law was binding. 

It also said that a three-judge bench cannot examine the validity of the law. “A constitutional bench has already examined all aspects of Section 124 A (sedition law) in context of fundamental rights like right to equality and right to life,” the government said in the Supreme Court.

The written note submitted by Solicitor General Tushar Mehta said that the Kedar Nath Singh judgment of the Supreme Court, which upheld the validity of Section 124A, was rendered by a five-judge Constitution bench. Therefore, a three-judge bench cannot hear legal challenge to the constitutional validity of the sedition law. 

The note further stated that Kedar Nath Singh judgment has stood the test of time and applied till date in tune with modern constitutional principles and only a bench of co-equal strength of Kedar Nath Singh can pose any doubts on the verdict.

The Centre submitted that individual instances of misuse of provision cannot be a ground for reconsideration of the past judgment. 

On Thursday, the top court granted more time to the Centre to file its response on pleas challenging the colonial era penal law on sedition. The top court said it would first decide whether the matter needs to be referred to a larger bench, adding that the arguments will be heard on May 10. 

The bench, on April 27, had directed the Central government to file the reply saying it would commence the final hearing in the matter on May 5 and would not entertain any request for adjournment.

Concerned over the enormous misuse of the penal law on sedition, the top court in July last year had asked the Centre why it was not repealing the provision used by the British to silence people like Mahatma Gandhi to suppress the freedom movement.

Agreeing to examine the pleas filed by the Editors Guild of India and former Major-General S G Vombatkere, challenging the Constitutionality of Section 124A (sedition) in the IPC, the apex court had said its main concern was the “misuse of law” leading to rise in number of cases.

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